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Eco groups sue to stop Pickett Snake Timber Sale

By Mark Freeman
Mail Tribune
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Four environmental groups are suing to halt a Bureau of Land Management timber sale over concerns that logging would harm sensitive plants and cheapen views from the Wild and Scenic Rogue River.

BLM officials, however, deny the Pickett Snake Timber Sale will hurt rare lilies or cheapen the panoramic views from the Rogue, and say reviews by Department of the Interior panels have so far sided with the BLM.

"They didn’t get the ruling they wanted from the Interior (panels), so they went to the courts," said Abby Jossie, field manager for the BLM’s Grants Pass Resource Area.

The groups went to the courts because the environmental assessment done to justify the logging calls for plant buffers the agency hasn’t proven will work, said staff attorney Brenna Bell of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center.

"The BLM is saying just sit back, trust us, we know what we’re doing," Bell said Friday. "Well, look around us. You can see what happens when we trust them."

The suit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Medford, and was assigned to Judge John Cooney.

Along with the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, the other plaintiffs are the Siskiyou Regional Education Project, Headwaters and the Oregon Natural Resources Council.

The Pickett Snake sale is one of several operations the BLM has put together to use logging, brush-clearing and other measures to imitate healthy changes fires make to forestland.

This sale calls for cutting 7.5 million board feet of timber over 1,116 acres, using a mix of cable, tractor and helicopter logging methods.

The project calls for no new permanent roads, but about one-third of a mile of temporary road would be built, said Steve Reed, the BLM’s Medford District manager.

Swanson-Superior Lumber Co. of Glendale bought the sale at a July auction for $837,894.35.

Plans call for removing trees with diameters ranging from 8 inches to 54 inches, but 90 percent of the volume will come from trees 20 inches thick or less, Jossie said.

Bell said her group was especially concerned about the impacts of logging to the clustered ladyslipper and Mountain ladyslipper, two sensitive plants that need thick forest canopy to protect them from the sun.

The logging is also planned around the largest population of the endangered Gentner’s fritillary, she said.

Jossie said the planned logging complies with the Endangered Species Act, previously accepted plans for managing sensitive plants as well as a specific plan for protecting views from the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com

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